On Wednesday, March 14, students all over the United States are leaving their classrooms for a National School Walkout to protest gun violence.
The National School Walkout is the latest protest in a string of demonstrations — along with March 24th’s March for Our Lives and April 20th’s National School Walkout — designed to highlight the prevalence of gun violence and its effects.
“Students and staff have the right to teach and learn in an environment free from the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms,” the National School Walkout explains. “Parents have the right to send their kids to school in the mornings and see them home alive at the end of the day.”
With the demonstration fast approaching, you may be wondering when exactly the walkout is and how can you participate. So here is everything you need to know about March 14th’s National School Walkout.
What is the National School Walkout?
The National School Walkout is a student-led protest against gun violence and policies that enable gun violence.
For the protest, students all over the country are walking out of their classrooms for 17 minutes to raise awareness of gun issues. The number 17 is significant because it is designed to highlight the 17 students killed at the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14.
When is the walkout happening?
The National Walkout is taking place on Wednesday, March 14th at 10 a.m. local time. That date is also important because it marks the one month anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Who started it?
The National School Walkout was organized by Empower, a coalition of teen activists from all over the country. You may have actually heard of Empower before — it’s the Women’s March‘s youth organization. “We believe, as youth, it is imperative we have spaces where our voices are being heard. We DON’T need adults speaking on our behalf,” Empower says.
Why are students protesting?
The National School Walkout is designed to protest all forms of gun violence against all people. “We are walking out for ALL people who have experienced gun violence, including systemic forms of gun violence that disproportionately impact teens in black and brown communities,” Empower writes on the National Walkout’s FAQ page.
“It is important that when we refer to gun violence, we do not overlook the impact of police brutality and militarized policing, or see police in schools as a solution. We also recognize the United States has exported gun violence through imperialist foreign policy to destabilize other nations.”
What are the demands of the demonstration?
Along with highlighting gun violence, the National School Walkout’s goal is to put pressure on Congress to take action to pass gun reform.
With this goal in mind, the National School Walkout has a list of demands for congress: ban assault weapons; ban high capacity magazines; expand background checks to all gun sales; pass federal gun violence restraining order laws; fund government research on gun violence; and promote safe storage. You can learn more about the list of demands here.
How you can participate
One of the goals for the National Walkout is to be inclusive of students everywhere. As such, there a few simple ways to participate. Firstly, if you’re a student, the National Walkout encourages you to walk out of your classroom for the 17 minutes at 10 a.m. If walking outside is not a safe option, The National School Walkout encourages students to congregate in their hallways, school gym, or stand up in their classrooms during the 17 minutes of the protest.
The National School Walkout also makes clear: work with your school for the protest. “Have conversations with your school administration or school resource officer to help determine best practices that take into account the safety of all students.”
In addition to ensuring safety, communicating with your school before the walkout will also give all parties an understanding of what the walkout is, and if there will be any consequences to the protest, such as suspensions or detentions.
If you want to know your rights as a protestor, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the National Coalition Against Censorship worked together to create a helpful comic that outlines the dos and don’ts of protesting, as well as what protections the First Amendment assures. You can read and learn more about the comic here.
If you’re a college student but you don’t have class on March 14 at 10 a.m., you can still participate by joining your peers on campus. “We are encouraging college students who do not have class at 10 a.m. to hold a campus action in a central student area,” Empower advises.
One of the goals for the National School Walkout is to be inclusive of students everywhere.
As for adults, the movement is very specific: only students, school staff, or adults invited by the school’s administration should walk out of their classroom and join students for the day of protest. “This is an important safety precaution we must take in order to help ensure the safety of students and staff,” Empower explains.
However, Empower says if you’re an adult, there are a few ways to participate. First, you can walk out of your place of work for 17 minutes. Second, you can wear orange, the official color of the movement, for the day.
And most importantly, the protest is non-violent. “By choosing to organize an event with WM Youth Empower, you are committing to acting nonviolently, working to de-escalate confrontations with others, and following the instructions of authorized event marshals,” Empower says on their Action Network page, where students can register their walkout.
And of course, all people are encouraged to spread the word about their demonstration with the hashtag #ENOUGH on social media.